Sorry I missed last week, but I am getting back on track this week. We will look at the second piece of Satan's counterfeit armor today - the breastplate. Ephesians 6 tells us to put on a breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate covers the chest area and more importantly it is the protective piece that covers our heart, so you can know that Satan will offer a counterfeit to deceive our hearts. His counterfeit breastplate is religion. Rather than wearing a breastplate of righteousness he wants you and I to put on a breastplate of religion. Righteousness reminds me that without Christ I am nothing. Religion tells me that on my own I am pretty good. Righteousness focuses on Christ. Religion focuses on me. Righteousness is based on Christ's redemptive work on the cross. Religion is based on my own good works. How sneaky Satan is that he would offer us something that looks so good on the outside but in reality has little to do with Christ or the cross. When Jesus walked the earth over 2000 years ago, who gave him the most trouble? The religious leaders. They had their own ideas of how the Messiah would act and Jesus did not fit into their particular religious box. Religion still tries to put Jesus into a neat little box today. Religion tells you if you do this, say this, act like this, then you are acceptable. Scripture tells us that our righteousness is not based on our good works but on the blood of Christ. There is a story in Scripture of a woman who was caught in adultery. The religious leaders dragged her before Jesus in hopes that Jesus would judge and condemn her. If you have read her story, you know that Jesus' response was, "He who is without sin, let him first cast a stone." Religion is ever in the business of pointing out others' faults. When religion confronted Jesus that day, it dropped its stones, but instead of repenting it just walked away. Religion does not want to be confronted with its own sin, so it focuses instead on "fixing" others. When the piercing words of Jesus are spoken, the religious heart will cover its ears and walk away. Religion manifests itself in many ways - ways that often seem very spiritual, but are ultimately deadly. II Samuel 16:7 says that man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart. Religion keeps you and I from the heart of the matter - our relationship with Jesus. It is relationship not religion that God wants from us. If Satan can convince us to wear a breastplate of religion, he will keep our heart from the truth of God's Holy Word that "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in HIM we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)
I want to end with this analogy that I used in class and it seemed to hit home with everyone. Isaiah 61:10 says, "I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." As women we may not understand all about military armor, but we certainly understand the significance of being a bride. As little girls most of us dream of the day when we will meet our prince and we will become his bride. So consider what God is saying in Isaiah when he compares a robe of righteousness to a bride adorning herself for her wedding day. Maybe it would help if every morning you mentally dressed yourself in a bridal gown of righteousness. No bride wants a wedding gown that is torn, stained, or imperfect. When we wear a breastplate of religion it is the same as putting on a tattered and torn wedding gown. When we put on a breastplate of righteousness, however, we are adorning ourselves in the most beautiful wedding dress we could ever imagine. As a result, like a bride, we will only have eyes for our Bridegroom and pleasing Him will be our only consideration.